BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Online holiday shopping is a great way to dodge parking lot traffic, pointy elbows and pepper spray at big retailers, but it's also a good way to help out the little guys this season.
The 38% of American consumers who did their holiday shopping online in 2004 has grown to nearly 40% this year, according to surveys from the National Retail Federation. Meanwhile, the percentage of those shunning online shopping altogether has dropped from 23.5% to 18% during that span. Free shipping offers and online coupons help, but so do mobile devices that make it easy to place an online order without being tethered to the desk or couch.
ComScore (Stock Quote: SCOR) is already predicting that the $32.6 million spent online last holiday season will grow this year by 15%, to $37.6 million. Shoppers have given them little reason to think otherwise by increasing their online Thanksgiving spending 18% from $407 million in 2010 to $479 million this year. Black Friday shopping put 26% more stuffing in Santa's sack this year by boosting online spending from $648 million last year to $816 milliion this turkey day. Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) saw the biggest boost, with 50% more visitors than any other site, but Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT), Best Buy (Stock Quote: BBY), Target (Stock Quote: TGT) and Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) all rounded out the Top 5.
Even Cyber Monday, a retail relic from days when sneaking purchases past the bosses over the office T line was the only way to shop online without waiting out dialup busy signals, managed to pack a bigger punch this year. Cubicle-confined deal seekers spent 22% more than they did last year, driving sales to $1.3 billion from $1 billion. Through last week alone, Americans spent $18.7 billion online this holiday season and increased early holiday spending 15% from the same span in 2010.
The big retailers still get a huge chunk of the holiday haul, but there are thousands of connected little corner shops shunning $200 game consoles and $30 printers in favor of $25-to-$50 stocking stuffers. The following are 10 examples of niche sites that are the best place to find misfit toys this side of a stop-motion animated holiday musical special: